Wrestling with God–God Wins Again!

Scripture Reading for January 13:  Genesis 32-36

Have you ever felt that God has told you to do something that you knew had the potential for trouble?  You know you heard the Lord but needed reassurance that it was going to work out in spite of the very real potential.  Our first move away from home to pastor a church in Washington was like that.  We were used to being around family and familiar surrounding.  The church we took had had some problems too.  We were not sure they would like us or love us when the going got tough.  We wrestled some concerning our move of 2000 miles with our daughter just ready for her senior year in a good Christian high school.  We had told God we would go anywhere, but not necessarily this far! 

Jacob faced just such a challenge in his move back from Paddan Aram to his homeland.  God commanded him to go back but he was concerned about the brother he had left behind nearly 20 years ago who was plotting to kill him.  (Genesis 31:3, 13) Jacob had taken this brother’s birthright and stolen his father’s blessing.  He had also just left his father-in-law upset by leaving and losing his family and herds to Jacob’s shrewdness.  Jacob sent his family across the Jabok, a tributary of the Jordan River.  He divided them in groups and sent gifts for Esau but was in great fear and trembling when he heard Esau was coming with 400 men to meet him.  He stayed behind to pray.

That night he was alone and Scripture says “a man wrestled with him until daybreak”.  (Genesis 32:22-31) This “man” touched Jacobs hip socket and put it out of joint.  Jacob would not let him go until this “man” blessed him.  The man asked Jacob his name–“Jacob” (cheat, supplanter).  The man changed Jacob’s name to “Israel” (wrestled with God and men and have overcome.)   The man wouldn’t give Israel his name, but did bless him and left.  Israel named the place “Peniel”.  This name states that he believed he had seen God face to face and was spared!  Thus the nation of “Israel” was born out of this amazing wrestling match!  God wins again! 

Wrestling with God isn’t a bad thing if we are desparate for His blessing!  God loves it when we lay hold of Him as our only hope!  It’s a sure way to true blessing, but we may walk with a limp!  It’s a humbling thing to be touched by the Lord!  We will never walk the same way again!  Thankfully, ways of cheating, lying and manipulating to get our way are left behind.  Our past is gone!  We have a “new Name” written down in Glory! 

And God said to him, “I am God Almighty, be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and community of nations will come from your body.  The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.”  Genesis 36:11-12 

“He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna.  I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”  Revelation 2:17

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Gay Bishop asked to pray at Breakfast!


Today we have news that our new President-elect trying to bring unity to our nation by asking an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Church, to pray.  He has been openly critical of Mr. Obama for asking Rick Warren, an evangelical minister who has spoken out openly against the gay agenda, to pray at the inagural ceremony.  Bishop Robinson says he will not pray a “Christian” prayer or use the Bible because not all  Americans like the Bible.  How should we as Christians look at these events and discern God’s will for our actions and response? 

Unity is a good thing.  In John 17:20-23, Jesus prays that his followers will be brought to complete unity to let the world know that the Father had sent Jesus and that God the Father loves them.  Does this prayer mean that we should just let this issue of gay sex and gay marriage be a personal preference and try to be one?  What about our nation?  Should we, for the sake of unity, make this issue another preference?  There is a worldview battle going on now to try and decide these issues!

God’s original plan from Genesis is that a man and a woman would be joined together in a covenant relationship.  God  blessed their relationship and the offspring that would come.  These offspring would be raised to know, love, and obey God, their creator and the giver of life.  Genesis 1 and 2 detail the creation of man and woman and their God-given purpose.  Satan and sin entered the human race in Genesis 3.  The temptation Satan offered to woman was to have a personal knowledge of good and evil and become like God.  She and her husband fell for it.  The results are still being experienced. 

Gay and lesbian sexual relationships are a rebellion against God’s stated design and purpose.  No children can come from these unions and God commanded fruitfulness. Gay and lesbian lifestyles are not new.  They were one of the underlying reasons for God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19.  Lot tried to warn the men of the city who were seeking his visitors (men who were angels) for gay sex.  “Don’t do this wicked thing” was the warning that went unheeded.  Numbers 18 warns against gay sex and says that the land will vomit out those who engage in it.  In the New Testament, 1st Corinthians 6:9-11 states that no homosexual offender will inherit the kingdom of God.  It is plain that Christians who serve the one and only true God should not do anything to promote or sanction anything that God hates and is going to judge.  The most loving thing we can do is confront them with truth and pray for God’s mercy leading to repentance. 

Our President-elect may mean well and claims to be a practicing Christian.  Bishop Robinson may be trying to bring unity and is sincere. But  sincerity is not a test of truth!   Their worldview is out of line with the Bible and God’s revealed will.  Scripture says that will bring judgment, not blessing! 

Our nation and new leadership need our prayers.  We must pray to the one true God in order to be heard. We support them but do not agree with their worldview or choices.  We voice our opinions with respect, but cannot change our belief for the sake of unity.  We must live out our faith in our world in truth.  We love those involved enough to confront with truth in love with prayer and tears for their repentance!  When offered the choice, we vote for those who will stand for God’s will in this area.  May God have mercy on our nation!

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Those “Hittite” Women!

Scripture Reading for January 12–Genesis 27-31

“When Esau was 40 years old, he married Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite.  They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.”  Genesis 26:34-35

Abraham sent his servant to find a bride for Isaac to insure the godly line would be continued.  Isaac and Rebekah had the twins Jacob and Esau.  But Esau had a taste for these Hittite women,  not just one, but two wives at the same time!  It seems that Esau was oblivious to the grief he caused his godly parents.  He went right ahead in spite of their personal marriage story and probably their godly training and advice.   Marrying one was bad enough, but two was too much of a bad thing!

God wants us to walk by faith and in obedience to His Word.  He has placed those in authority over us to help us learn how to live and please the Lord.  Choosing a mate is one of the most important choices we make in life.  We as parents know our children and we know God (hopefully).  We should give godly instruction to our children to marry only believers.  We should help them by setting an example of a godly marriage and home and helping them evaluate the kind of man or woman who would complement their personality.  This person, according to Scripture should always be a believer and strong person of faith!  (2nd Corinthians 6:14-18) In fact, this is one of the only restrictions God puts on marriage.  (Marriage is only between a man and woman.)

Why does God require this?  According to Scripture (Malachi 2:15) He desires godly offspring!  It’s simple enough to understand.  In Genesis 4, there were Cain and Abel.  One feared God, the other didn’t.  In Genesis 6-8 there were Noah’s offspring and all the rest who were wicked!  From Abraham and Sarah, there were Ishmael and Isaac.  From Isaac and Rebekah there were Jacob and Esau.  Believing parents have a better chance of raising godly children!  It is still not a guarantee because each person has a free will to choose faith or self.  The Christian worldview on marriage needs re-emphasis in our world today!  Unbelieving mates and unequally yoked marriages cause great grief and pain to believers and to the heart of God when He see children without a godly example in the home! Don’t marry “those Hittite women”!

” Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women.  If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.”  Genesis 27:46

” Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what have righteousness and wickedness have in common?  Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?  What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”  2nd Corinthians 6:14-15

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Sunday Rest and Reflection

Another seventh day of rest has arrived.  God himself wanted to rest.  Man and woman need rest too!  “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”.  (Mark 2:27)  Resting is not the practice of many in the modern world we live in.  I know that myself too well.  I am a doer and have been taught that I shouldn’t waste time.  Time is precious and there are many things to do.  Church can even be busy.  I am trying rest and reflect more this year and enjoy creation, my family and God.  We find the invitation in Genesis to enjoy a Sabbath Rest every seventh day!

Looking back on the readings from Genesis 10-26, we have taken quite a trek through time and history.  The world-wide flood sent by God began the history of man again with Noah and his family.  We have this genealogy in Genesis 10.  In Genesis 11, we find some of those descendants building the tower of Babel in defiance to God!  How could man forget the lesson of the flood in just over 100 years with their grandparents as eyewitnesses of that judgment? Was it true even then that the generations didn’t communicate?  It has been said that God’s church is always only a generation away from extinction!  But God is merciful in judgment, scattering them over the earth by confusing their languages.  Thus the nations are formed and God’s plan is moved forward.

The lives of Abraham and Sarah and their children take up the bulk of last weeks reading.  They appear about 2000 years before Christ. God’s purpose is to make from this couple a great nation that He could be King over.  They would be His people and He would be their God.   Abraham believed God when God spoke to him.  This is counted as righteousness.  (Genesis 15:6)  Believing is the only ‘work’ we need to do to be right with God.  We must work it out by obedient actions and attitudes in our walk of faith.  Abraham and Sarah give me hope because they certainly weren’t perfect in believing or obedient actions.  How about Sarah’s plan to give her maid Hagar to Abraham for sexual relations and children?  How about Abraham twice asking his wife to say she was his sister and nearly sending her into an adulterous relationship just to protect his own life?  How about Sarah’s anger at Hagar and mistreatment of her? How about Sarah’s laughter when the angel spoke of a child?  And then the denial she later made when confronted?  I’m thankful that God’s grace covers my sin when I confess, repent and trust in His son Jesus!

Isaac is finally born to parents whose bodies appeared ‘dead’ to the ability to reproduce!  The sound of laughter filled this aged couple’s home!  God specializes in the impossible!  We simple need to rest in His ability to do what He says He will do!

May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit!” –Romans 15:13

May the Lord give you a blessed day of rest and enjoyment of creation, your family, and your awesome God!

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Isaac the farmer and well-digger!

Scriptures for January 10th:  Genesis 25-26

On our farm in Iowa, we had a dug well that was 110 feet deep.  (Not a drilled well!) This well was about 4 feet across and my father and his dad and brothers had helped dig this well and brick it up.  Occasionally, we would set up a tower with a rope and a basket and my dad would be lowered into the well to check the bricks and eliminate roots that were growing in through the wall.  It always amazed me that Dad said he could see the stars from the bottom of that well in broad daylight.

Because of a famine, Isaac camped in the Valley of Gerar in the land of the Philistines and reopened the wells of his father Abraham. The well provided precious water in the desert that enabled crops, animals and humans to have refreshing and life.  They provided a gathering place for communities to get this water daily for their use. (Jesus met the woman at the well in John chapter 4.)  Wells also provided a means to increase a family’s wealth and provide for offspring. They were also a source of quarreling in Isaac’s day.  Rather than fight over the wells, Isaac went to another location and dug a new well.  God blessed him to find a fresh supply of water wherever he went.

Because of a famine, Isaac went to Gerar of the Philistines.  It was there that God gave him the promise of the land and descendants as the stars in the sky as He did to Abraham.  (Genesis 26:2-6) Isaac obeyed and planted crops that year.  God blessed him with a hundred fold return!  It wasn’t his farming skill but God’s blessings that made the difference!  Jealousy caused the Philistines to stop up the wells of Abraham that Isaac had been using.  He moved on and dug new wells and God provided fresh water every time!  God met him at Beersheba and blessed him! (Genesis 26:24-25)  Isaac responded with an altar and another well.

The lesson for us is to dig for water wherever we are planted.  We dig by going to Jesus and asking daily for His will and provision. If we seek the Lord for direction, He will bless us, even in a famine!  When you dig a well and the hole is deep, look up and see the stars and remember God’s promise to Abraham and Isaac!  May the laughter (Isaac–Ha ha ha) of faith fill your life!  May we, like Isaac, leave a legacy of wells of refreshing and blessing everywhere we go! May we re-dig the wells of our godly fathers!

“Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there.” Genesis 26:19

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

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The Laughter of Faith

January 9th Scripture Reading:  Genesis 21-24

In 1992 while attending a pastor’s conference in California, a man gifted in prophetic ministry gave my wife and I  a word from the Lord.  He told us we would have children in our later years and that they would be a blessing.  Several months later at our home church, a visiting evangelist picked us out of 700 people and gave us the same word.  At this time, we already had three children and had no plans for more.  We chuckled a bit, but mostly wondered at these interesting words and what might come of them.  Seven years later, in August of 1999, we traveled  to Russia and adopted two daughters!  As we had prepared to do this, we had forgotten the words of prophecy.  Our son reminded us and I found in my file one of these words that had been typed out for me.  It confirmed what we were about to do!  God does know the end from the beginning!  (Isaiah 42:9)

God promised a son to Abraham and Sarah in their later years.  They waited 25 years and the promise finally came to pass.  God waited until it was impossible for them to have a child and then did the impossible!  Sarah had laughed at the angel’s announcement a year earlier.  Abraham named the child “Isaac” which literally means “laughter”.  In their old age they experienced the sound of laughter–the laughter of faith.  Every time they spoke the child’s name they were reminded of God’s miracle!

Faith puts its trust in an object.  Biblical faith always trusts in God and his ability to bring his promises to pass.  It is not faith in our ability to believe!  When God brings to pass what He promised, laughter is a great response!  God has a great sense of humor!  He always has the last laugh!  He loves making us laugh too!  Who wouldn’t want to walk with a God like that!

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”  Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead, since he was about a hundred years old–and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.  Yet he did not waver in unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised.” Romans 4:18-21

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Don’t do this wicked thing!

January 8th Scripture Reading: Genesis 18-20

An ongoing debate and cultural war is going on in our society concerning gay and lesbian rights and gender identification.  From today’s reading, we get insight into how God feels about this sort of activity in a city or country.  He has ordained marriage between a man and a woman.  He made them male and female.  But disobedience to the clear command and purpose of God, always brings consequences.  He is merciful to all who will listen and obey but will judge unrepented sin and rebellion.  Sin’s outcry reaches heaven and God’s ears.  The righteous cry out for deliverance and justice and God responds!

In response to the reports of wickedness that had reached heaven, God sent two angels to Sodom to rescue Lot and his family before judgment fell.  As these angels were visiting with Lot, the men of Sodom came knocking on Lot’s door, demanding to have those visitors (the angels appearing as men) for their own sexual pleasure.  Lot pleaded with them, “Please don’t do this wicked thing.” (Genesis 19:6) But they began to break down his door.  The angels intervened, pulled Lot inside, and struck the men outside blind.  They warned Lot to gather his family and leave because they were under orders from God to destroy that city.

The saddest note in this story is when Lot tried to warn his son’s-in-law about the coming destruction and they thought he was joking! (Genesis 19:14)  Lot had moved to Sodom with great riches.  He apparently tolerated the wickedness and even failed to help his own daughters find believing mates.  When the angels warned of the coming destruction, he delayed.   As they finally left, his own wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt! Jesus used this as a warning to His disciples and us!  {Luke 17:32)

How’s your discernment?  Are you aware of the warnings from God’s Word?  Are you warning those involved in the “sin of Sodom?”  Are you careful to vote for godly men and women who will listen to God’s Word on this subject?  Pray for discernment and intercede for mercy for our land!  He designed man and woman for marriage and reproduction and raising godly children.  God has given us freedom to choose our lifestyle, but He warns of consequences!  “Don’t do this wicked thing!”

“Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah–from the Lord out of the heavens.  Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities and also the vegetation in the land.  But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” Genesis 19:24-26

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Abraham, Sarah and Ishmael

January 7th Scripture Reading:  Genesis 15-17

A great deal has happened in the lives of Abram and Sarai in the last three chapters.  They have been to Egypt and back. They have rescued Lot from invaders.  They gave the first tithes to Melchezidek, an unusual man who was a king of Salem (Jerusalem) and a priest of “The Most High God”. (A type of Christ)  Sarai has suggested to Abram that he have a child by her maid, Hagar, to fulfill God’s promise since she, Sarai,  is still barren.  A child results and trouble ensues!  Hagar feels superior and Sarai is  jealous and mistreats her.  The child, Ishmael, becomes a source of trouble in the house and is prophesied to be one who would cause trouble (Genesis 16:12).  In fact, we are today experiencing trouble in our world in the Middle East conflict and war on terror from Ismael’s offspring!  This is 4000 years later!  How true the Word of God is!

Genesis 17 records another visit by God to Abram and Sarai.  Abram is now 99 years old and Sarai is 90.  God confirms his promise to them in a covenant.  Part of a covenant is a change of names.  God’s covenant name was “YHWH”, Hebrew letters that were pronounced only with a drawn out “h” sound.  God changed Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah, adding part of his name to theirs and thus changing the meaning of their names.  Abram means “Exalted Father” and Abraham means “Father of many or a multitude”.  Sarai’s new name means “Princess”.  God took Abraham’s name too.  He became know as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God also gave them a physical sign of the covenant, circumcision.  This mark in the male organ carrying the “seed”, would remind Abraham of God’s promise and mark his offspring as special.  This sign also helped keep the line pure and free from venereal disease, thus protecting the offspring.

God has a plan and his promises always come true.  Faith simply says “yes” to God and obeys!  Abraham is known as the father of faith because he believed God and God credited him with being righteous!  (Genesis 15:6)  We are made right with God exactly the same way!  By faith in Jesus we are credited with righteousness too.  Our sign of covenant is that we get the Name of Jesus and the Holy Spirit who circumcises our hearts and marks us as belonging to God.  God writes our name in the Book of Life and we have an eternal inheritance in Him!  We are truly blessed through Abraham and Sarah and their seed, Jesus Christ!

“Having believed, you were marked in him (Christ) with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession, to the praise of His Glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

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Father Abram and Faith

January 6th Scripture Reading: Genesis 12-14

About 2000 years before Christ or about 400 years after the tower of Babel, God spoke to a man in Ur of the Caldeans  in the land that is now called Iraq.  This man’s name was Abram; he was about 75 years old and married to a lady named Sarai.  They were childless and already beyond the years of childbearing.

God seems to specialize in hard cases.  He likes to challenge people to believe him when he speaks.  God speaks to Abram and gives him eight specific promises: (1) I will make you a great nation, (2) I will bless you, (3) I will make your name great, (4) You will be a blessing, (5) I will bless those who bless you, (6) I will curse those who curse you, (7) All peoples of the earth will be blessed through you, (8) To your offspring I will give this land (Canaan). (Genesis 12:2-3, 7.)   God then asks Abram to leave his home and go to a land that God would show him.  Abram does exactly what God asks him to do.  With promises like that, who wouldn’t want in on these blessings and future blessings?
We get to see the beginning here of God’s plan to form a people who would by faith obey and follow him.  Abram is told that God will make him a great nation when he doesn’t even have a child.  Abram is told all nations will be blessed through him.  He is promised blessing and protection from God Himself.  How can this be?  God sovereignly chose Abram, revealed the promises and asked for obedience.  Abram believed and acted.  Faith is so simple really.  Faith looks at God who made the promises and chooses to believe that the one who made the promises is able to fulfill them!
That’s exactly what God is calling us to do!  Trust in the offspring of Abram, Jesus Christ and receive the blessing promised to all peoples of the earth!  He also asks us to bless Abram’s offspring and the nation they formed, Israel.
He asks us to believe him now and be blessed and be a blessing.  Will you trust him and obey?
“Yet he  (Abraham) did not waver in unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” Romans 4:20-21
“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  Galatians 3:29
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The Confused Tower Builders!

January 5th Scripture Reading: Genesis 10-11

In preceding chapters of Genesis we saw that God chose Noah to start the population of the world all over again.  His three sons and their wives were all that were saved from the world-wide flood.  Did you ever wonder how we got all the different nations of the world?  Did you wonder where all the languages and nationalities came from?   This would not be understandable if it were not for Genesis 10 and 11.

God blessed Noah and told him and his family to be fruitful and multiply and fill the whole earth.  (Genesis 9:1)  Noah’s grandson born to Ham, Nimrod, led a rebellion around 100 years after the flood.  The rebellion consisted of gathering family members together on the plain of Shinar (Ancient Babylon, current Iraq).  They decided to build a tower that would reach to the heavens and to make a name for themselves and avoid being scattered over the face of the earth as God had commanded.  (Genesis 11:1-4)  This seemed harmless enough, except it was in rebellion to God’s will and plan.

God came down!  Man had built himself a tall tower, reaching to the heavens but God still came down.  Man could not come close to reaching heaven on his own or with his own strength and plans.  Pride was behind this, the very sin that got Satan removed from heaven.  In fact, it was the very sin that got man removed from his daily walk with God in the beautiful Garden of Eden (delights).  God realized that with one language and rebellious leadership that nothing would be impossible for them.  He confused their language and scattered them over the earth and they stopped their building.

God did one more thing that insured that they would not get back together for rebellion.  Genesis 10 is a genealogy of the son’s of Noah.  One of Shem’s grandsons, Eber, had a son Peleg.  Peleg means “division” and verse 25 states that “in his time the earth was divided. . “.  Some creation scientists believe that this is when God could have separated the continents following the judgment at the tower of Babel.  Those scattered people groups represented by the 70 family groups of Genesis 10 formed the nations of the world that we see in existence today.  (see The Genesis Record by Dr. Henry Morris, pages 260-261)(also book review page and sidebar).   A side note is that “Eber” is probably where the name “Hebrews” was derived.  The concentration of genetics in each group through mating could have resulted in the races and nationalities we see today.

God truly works out everything for our good and accomplishes his plans!  Take time today to thank Him for your heritage and for showing mercy in judgment at the Tower of Babel.

“From one man he (God) made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:26-27

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